Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sectarian worship - in their own words

Here are a series of quotes from one of the most famous and influential sectarian worship leaders in America, Pastor Rick Warren. If you’re wondering what Church Growth theology looks like, here it is! His reasoning is echoed to one degree or another by some in WELS who insist that “we have to rethink the way we do church.”

“We want to loosen up the tense muscles of uptight visitors. When your body is relaxed, your attitude is less defensive” (Rick Warren. The Purpose Driven Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995, p.256).
And a less defensive attitude makes conversion “easier.” An “aid” to the Means of Grace. False doctrine!

So a casual atmosphere must be created, because formality is intimidating and doesn’t allow a person to “loosen up in God’s presence.”

“Worship is a powerful witness to unbelievers if God’s presence is felt and if the message is understandable…God’s presence must be sensed in the service. More people are won to Christ by feeling God’s presence than by all our apologetic arguments combined. Few people, if any, are converted to Christ on purely intellectual grounds. It is the sense of God’s presence that melts the heart and explodes mental barriers” (Warren, p. 241-242).
So the musical style must be relevant enough to the participants and upbeat enough to bring God’s presence into the room and open unbelievers’ hearts to the power of the gospel. “Feeling God’s presence” is an essential part of the “Arminian/Pentecostal Means of Grace.” False doctrine!

“It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart…The most likely place to start (looking for the key) is with the person’s felt needs” (Warren, p.219).
Man’s heart is not dead in sin, by nature, so it just needs to be unlocked, not with the “Keys of the Kingdom” that Jesus talked about, but by addressing the person’s felt needs. False doctrine!

So the Lectionary and the Church Year are abandoned, because topical series are better able to address people's felt needs. (The Lectionary assumes that all people have common needs caused by common sin, and a common solution in Christ, brought to all in common by the Means of Grace.)

There are some types of people your church will never reach, because they require a completely different style of ministry than you can provide(Warren, p.174).
The style of your ministry is the key to saving the lost. The Means of Grace depends on the right style in order to be powerful and effective, living and active. False doctrine!

The style of music you choose to use in your service will be one of the most critical (and controversial) decisions you make in the life of your church. It may also be the most influential factor in determining who your church reaches for Christ and whether or not your church grows. You must match your music to the kind of people God wants your church to reach. The music you use positions your church in your community…It will determine the kind of people you attract, the kind of people you keep, and the kind of people you lose. If you were to tell me the kind of music you are currently using in your services, I could describe the kind of people you are reaching without even visiting your church. I could also tell you the kind of people your church will never reach” (Warren, p. 280-281).
This is Church Growth theology in its purest form. Conversion depends on style. Right style = success. Wrong style = failure. False doctrine!

“Explosive growth only occurs when the type of people in the community match the type of people that are already in the church, and they both match the type of person the pastor is” (Warren, p.177).
Not the Means of Grace, but the right kind of people and the right kind of pastor will reach the right kind of people. False doctrine!

“Today’s most effective worship songs are love songs sung directly to God. This is biblical worship. We are told at least seventeen times in Scripture to sing to the Lord. In contrast, most hymns are sung about God. The strength of many contemporary worship songs is that they are God-centered, rather than man-centered” (Warren, p.289).

"I receive notes that say, 'I loved the worship today. I got a lot out of it.' It isn’t for our benefit! When we worship, our goal is to bring pleasure to God, not ourselves…Bringing pleasure to God is called worship.” (Rhoda Tse. ”Rick Warren’s Secrets of Worship.” ).

Worship is from believers to God. We magnify God’s name in worship by expressing our love and commitment to Him. God is the consumer of worship.” (Rick Warren. “First-Person: The Evangelistic Power of Worship.”).
What Warren means by “God-centered” is that the songs express man’s feelings about God, rather than God’s gracious acts toward men. What he means by “man-centered” is that man is on the receiving end of God’s saving acts.

So for Warren and the sectarians in general, worship ought to be man’s gift to God, entirely (or certainly mostly) “sacrificial” rather than “sacramental.” Man gives, God receives. Man is active, God is passive. Man works, God enjoys. Man expresses his love for God, God revels in man’s great love for him.

Notice how this is a complete reversal of the Lutheran view of the Divine Service (worship), where God is the primary actor and man is primarily on the receiving end. Lutherans call this “God-centered,” because although man is doing the singing, speaking, and administering, what is it, in the Lutheran Divine Service, that man is singing, speaking and administering? The Word of Christ – God’s saving acts in favor of mankind. In Lutheran worship, a believer’s praise includes a proclamation of God’s saving acts, and when a believer proclaims God’s saving acts and receives God's gifts in faith, God is praised! (Praise is proclamation, proclamation is praise.)

This is why we call sectarian worship “man-centered,” because instead of focusing on God’s saving acts, it focuses on man’s thoughts, feelings and actions.

If Lutherans think they can innocently imbibe the practices of the sects without also drinking in the reasons behind their practices, they are sorely mistaken. This is precisely the sheep's clothing that allows the wolf to enter through the gate.

So if you see any books or Bible studies by Rick Warren in your church library, you should first ask your pastor (kindly), “Pastor, why is this here in our church?” Give him a chance to explain. If he says, “You have to know your enemy in order to defeat him,” or “We’re collecting materials to burn in case the heater goes down,” or something like that, then breathe a sigh of relief.

If he says anything like, “There’s lots of good material in there,” or "The benefits outweigh the risks," or “We can learn some valuable strategies” from Rick Warren, then you should (more forcefully) say to your pastor, “Pastor, we called you as our shepherd to protect us from the wolf, not to invite him into our fold. Please remove this immediately. How about something from Chemnitz or Luther instead?”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Explanation of the Common Service — Part 4

by Douglas Lindee

In Part 3 of this series of blog posts, after having introduced the little book, Explanation of the Common Service, posted its FOREWORD and INTRODUCTION in Part 1, and proceeded in Part 2 by beginning the Explanation of THE ORDER OF The Service, from the Invocation through the Preparation, we continued with the Explanation by posting from its contents regarding The Service. Part 3, however, only included an explanation of the first of the two main divisions of The Service: The Office of the Word. With this post, Part 4, we conclude the explanation of the THE ORDER OF The Service, proper, by posting from the Explanation regarding the second of the two main divisions of The Service: The Holy Supper.

As noted in the Q & A, below, the Lord's Supper is the most sacred, and solemn act of all Christian worship. It is the the personal communion of the living Savior with his people. All the preceding parts of The Service point to this communion. The Invocation and Preparation, through the Office of the Word, proclaims the Gospel — Christ! — to the assembly, to all at once. As Luther says, "whoever grasps it, grasps it." In the Supper, Christ is proclaimed to each individual, and the words "for you" couldn't be more personal.

Here are some thoughts worth considering as you read about The Holy Supper:
    Isn't it interesting that, in order to make the Divine Service "real, relational, and relevant" for the modern individual, advocates of the Church Growth Movement (CGM) invariably emphasize and elevate the sacrificial elements of the service, supposedly making the service more personal on the basis of the worshiper's experience? This is an entirely anti-sacramental viewpoint, is it not? As suggested in Part 3, CGM Lutherans, taking their cue from modern Evangelicals and other sectarians of Calvinist and Arminian influence, seem to get away with this by confusing sacrifice with sacrament -- by confusing the "Law and Gospel of liturgical life," so to speak. The fact is, the most intimate and personal communion we have with Christ is not our personal experience in the sacrificial part of the Divine Service, but is in the sacrament of Holy Communion, wherein Christ both physically and spiritually joins Himself with the individual, personally assuring him that his sins are forgiven and that he is God's own dear child. There is no more personal "experience of Christ" than this. Moreover, as the Explanation indicates, our most intimate and personal union with one another also occurs in the sacrament of Holy Communion, for being all partakers, in it we are made one. How can "fellowship activities" replace that?

    Given this, what consequence for the worshiper might result from omitting the Lord's Supper from the Divine Service? Are we really missing anything when the Sacrament is not offered? Is something equivalent offered in its place? Is something less than equivalent elevated to its place? If the worshiper is repeatedly robbed of this personal union with Christ, might it be expected that he would seek to "personalize" the Service in other ways -- such as through entertainment and other forms of anthropocentric pleasure? Yesterday, in a comment he posted in response to the blog post What is REAL Lutheran Worship anyway?, Rev. David Jay Webber (ELS) included a link to an essay he wrote, entitled Communion Frequency in the Lutheran Confessions. In it, he offers the following thought:

      In North America today, the rubrics for the main Sunday Service in most Lutheran hymnals still give directions about what to do “When there is no Communion.” This is true of Lutheran Book of Worship (used in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada),51 Lutheran Worship (used in the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church -- Canada),52 and Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal (used in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod).53 This is not true, however, of the new hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, where directions are given instead about what to do “When there are no communicants.”54 This shows a marked improvement in theological and liturgical understanding, and a very welcome return to the thought patterns of the Lutheran Reformation. The day may come when this understanding is reflected throughout the orthodox Lutheran world, and when there will no longer be any such thing as a “non-Communion Sunday” for Lutheran parishioners

        who hunger for Christ’s body and blood and who are prepared to receive it. The fact that some of those present do not wish to receive should not prevent others from receiving. ... The Eucharist Service is to be the chief Sunday service as a matter of course, and the people are to be encouraged to commune.55

    Might such an attitude also result in an abatement of desire that human pleasure encroach upon, or even dominate, the Divine Service?

NOTE: Other installments in this series can be found at the following links:IN ADDITION, this entire series was republished as the single blog post,along with the following companion blog posts:

An Explanation of the Common Service (1908)
Board of Publication of the General Council of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America

To the
Young Lutheran who asks
The Meaning of the
Beautiful Liturgy of
His church


ORDER OF The Service OR The Communion: The Service Proper (continued)

42. What are the general divisions of the Service?
    I. The Office of the Word
    II. The Holy Supper

The Holy Supper

NOTE: We now come to the most sacred, and solemn act of all Christian worship — the personal communion of the living Saviour with each individual heart. The parts which precede are preparatory to what is about to take place.

The first part, called the Office of the Word, of which the Gospel is the center, is not an independent service. It is the Good News, the forgiveness of sins, proclaimed to all; while in the second part, the Holy Supper, the Good News is applied to each soul.

115. How did the ancients emphasize the peculiar sacredness of this part of the Service?
The first part, a service of teaching, was known as the "Mass of the Catechumens." At its conclusion the Catechumens were dismissed with special prayers. The second part was known as the "Mass of the Faithful." To this, none but communicants were admitted. The doors were closed and guarded, so that no profane eye might behold the sacred Mystery. An old liturgy tells us in what spirit the people must approach the Holy Table: "Let no one have aught against anyone; let no one come in hypocrisy; let us stand upright before the Lord with fear and trembling."

116. What shall be the attitude of the Minister and the Congregation at the beginning of the Holy Supper?
While the hymn is sung, the Minister shall go to the Altar, make ready the Communion vessels, and prepare for the administration of the Holy Communion. The hymn ended, the Congregation shall rise, and stand to the end of the Agnus Dei.

117. What are the main divisions of the Office of the Holy Supper?
    Part I. The Preface.
    Part II. The Administration.
    Part III. The Post Communion.

Part I — The Preface

118. What does the word "preface" mean?
A foreword, an introduction — from the Latin praefatio, a saying beforehand.

119. What is the nature of the Preface?
It is a High Thanksgiving.

120. What are its divisions?
    1. The Salutation and Response.
    2. The Prefatory Sentences.
    3. The Eucharistic Prayer.
      (a) The Common Preface.
      (b) The Proper Preface.
    4. The Sanctus.

The Salutation and Response
The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit.

121. Where in the Scriptures are the Salutation and Response found?
The Salutation is found in Luke 1:28, and in Ruth 2:4;
The Response, in II Timothy 4:22.

122. To whom is the Salutation spoken?
To the Congregation.

123. What is its purpose?
To greet the worshipers with a blessing; to invite attention; to incite to devotion; and to suggest the coming act of worship.

124. What does the Salutation further imply?
That the Lord must first come to us before we can go to Him; as much as to say, "The Lord be with you and in you and help you to pray." Read Romans 8:26.

125. What is the meaning of the Response?
The people ask a blessing upon the Minister, and pray that the Lord may give him a devout mind, and guide him in the coming ministrations.

The Prefatory Sentences
"Lift up your hearts. We lift them up unto the Lord.
Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God. It is meet and right so to do."

126. What is the significance of these Sentences?
From the most ancient times these Sentences opened the Service of the Holy Eucharist. They stand in close connection with the Salutation and Response, and give specific direction to the Congregation's devotions which, in view of the exalted nature of the acts of worship which follow, should be full of joy and gratitude.

127. What is the meaning of the first Sentence?
"Lift up your hearts" (Latin, Sursum corda) that is: Think of nothing earthly, but arise, go to the very throne of God and offer prayer and praise; for, not only is Christ present in the Sacrament, but He also sits at the right hand of God. This lifting up of hearts finds its fullest expression in the words of the Sanctus.

128. How do the people respond to the Sursum Corda?
They accept the Minister's summons, and answer with assurance, "We lift them (our hearts) up unto the Lord."

129. What is the meaning of the second Sentence?
"Let us give thanks unto the Lord our God" (Latin, Gratias agamus), that is: After leading the people to the throne of God, the minister rouses their minds to a sense of His benefits and suggests the nature of the prayer they are to offer.

130. And how do the people take this?
In the Response, "It is meet and right so to do," they accept the thanksgiving thought, and declare their readiness to join in the great Eucharistic Prayer which follows.

The Eucharistic Prayer
"It is truly meet, right, and salutary, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty Everlasting God:

"For in the mystery of the Word made flesh, Thou hast given us a new revelation of Thy glory; that seeing Thee in the Person of Thy Son, we may be drawn to the love of those things which are not seen.

"Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious Name; evermore praising Thee, and saying:"

131. What is the nature of the Eucharistic Prayer?
It is a prayer of Thanksgiving — in imitation of our Lord who gave thanks when He took the bread and the cup to institute the Holy Communion. The Church has always said grace, or rendered thanks before partaking of the Holy Supper (I Cor. 10:16). This Thanksgiving was called by the Greeks Eucharistia, hence the term Eucharist used for the whole office. The Eucharistic Prayer is the principal division of the Preface, and gives it its chief significance.

132. What should be the posture of the Minister during this prayer?
While offering this prayer, he should by all means face the altar. No one turns his back to the table when he asks the blessing.

133. To whom is the Eucharistic Prayer addressed?
To God the Father.

134. What are the parts of this beautiful prayer?
It is composed of:
    1. The Common Preface, which consists of two minor parts —
      (a) The General Thanksgiving: "It is truly meet," etc.
      (b) The Conclusion: "Therefore with angels," etc.

    2. The Proper Preface, which, when used, is inserted between (a) and (b) in the Common Preface.
135. What is the meaning of the General Thanksgiving or first part of the Common Preface?
It is a testimony or acknowledgment to God for all His blessings, natural and spiritual. In olden times it was very lengthy, the thought beginning with creation. Read Psalm 26:6-7.

136. Explain the Proper Preface?
The Proper Preface is a special thanksgiving to our heavenly Father for the blessing of redemption in Christ Jesus.

137. How does the Proper Preface vary?
With the season of the Church year. It thus brings the Communion Office into close connection with the Service of the Day, and makes each of the chief elements of redemption, in turn, the reason of the Eucharistic Prayer. For example, in the Proper Preface for Christmas, given above, the Incarnation of our Lord is made the leading thought of the Prayer.

138. How do you explain the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer?
The conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer is also the introduction to the Sanctus. Although addressed to God in prayer, it also serves as a summons to all who have "lifted up their hearts" to join heaven's worshipers in singing, as one family, the Seraphic hymn. Read Ephesians 3:14-15.

The Sanctus
"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory; Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest."

139. What does the word Sanctus mean?
It is the Latin for Holy. Other titles of this hymn are Ter Sanctus and Trisagium, both meaning Thrice Holy.

140. What is the Sanctus?
It is the great hymn of the Communion Service – the very climax of the Thanksgiving.

141. What are its divisions and whence derived?
It consists of two verses, of which —
    The first is from Isaiah the prophet, who heard it sung by the Seraphim before the throne of God. Read Isaiah 6:2-3.

    The second was sung by the multitudes which went with Christ on His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:19). The same words are in the hymn (Psalm 118) which our Saviour is supposed to have chanted with the disciples at the institution of the Holy Supper.

    The first is heaven's hymn of praise. The second is earth's hymn of praise. Thus is fulfilled, "Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory."

    Each verse closes with Hosanna in the highest.
142. State the nature of the first verse.
It is an exalted strain of praise, in which the saints on earth join the angels in heaven in declaring God's perfection, and in proclaiming that His glory as manifested in Creation and Redemption fills all things. This verse recalls the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, "At all times and in all places."

143. What is suggested by the second verse of the Sanctus?
In the second verse — also called Benedictus — we hail Christ as our Saviour and Deliverer. These words resolve the whole Sanctus into a hymn of praise to Christ as God (John 12:41). We here look forward to the Administration, in which the Lord comes to each one.

144. What is the meaning of Hosanna in the highest?
    Hosanna means, Save, I pray.
    In the highest, in high heaven.
    This expression is an exclamation of the most intense feeling and gives utterance to the loftiest praise.
    It is also explained as a cry similar to God save the King!
    What a welcome to Christ our King!
145. Why may the Exhortation, which is inserted at this point in the Service, be omitted?
Because it makes a break in the Service, and this is not the place for preaching.

146. What was the original purpose of the Exhortation?
It was prepared by Volprecht of Nuremberg (1525) for the purpose of teaching the people, who had been reared under Romish error, the true meaning of the Lord's Supper.

147. Why may it be regarded as belonging to the Preface?
    Because it is preparatory in character;
    Because in some Lutheran Church Orders it took the place of the Preface; and
    Because like some of the ancient Prefaces it serves the purpose of teaching.
Note: This truly is the Mass or Service of the Faithful. The guest at the Lord's Table is not so much the poor Publican pleading for mercy, as the justified child of God, who boldly draws near to the throne of grace, lifts up his heart unto the Lord (Prefatory Sentences), gives thanks to his reconciled God (Eucharistic Prayer), and praises Him in exalted strains (Sanctus). Filled with this spirit, Christ's brethren are truly ready to sup with Him.

Part II — The Administration

148. Name the several parts of the Administration.
    1. The Lord's Prayer.
    2. The Words of Institution.
    3. The Pax.
    4. The Agnus Dei.
    5. The Distribution.
    6. The Blessing.

The Lord's Prayer
"OUR Father, who art in heaven; Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen."

149. Why does the Minister precede the Lord's Prayer with the words "Let us pray"?
For the reason that, although the Lord's Prayer is recited by the Minister, it is the self-consecratory prayer of all the people, as they declare and confirm by singing Amen at the close.

150. Why did the early Church introduce this prayer into the Communion Service?
    On account of its sacredness.
      (a) From ancient times it has always been regarded as a divine and spiritual form of prayer, which can never fail to move our heavenly Father, because His Son taught us thus to pray. On this Cyprian says beautifully: "What prayer can be more spiritual than that which was given us by Christ, by Whom also the Holy Spirit was sent? What petition more true before the Father than that which came from the lips of His Son, Who is the Truth?"

      (b) Its use was esteemed the peculiar privilege of true believers. Hence it was said, not in the first part of the worship, where we usually have it, but in the Communion Service, from which the heathen and the catechumens (the unbaptized) were excluded. The latter were strictly forbidden to utter it. Chrysostom explains thus: "Not until we have been cleansed by the washing of the sacred waters are we able to call God, Father."

151. Is the Lord's Prayer a part of the Consecration of the Elements?
No. Because such a use does not agree with the nature of the Lord's Prayer, nor with the proper nature of a prayer of consecration, nor with the view of the Ancient Church.

The Words of Institution
"Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it and gave it to His disciples, saying. Take, eat; this is My Body, which is given for you; this do in remembrance of Me.

"After the same manner, also, when He had supped, He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament in My Blood, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins; this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me."

152. Where are the Words of Institution recorded?
In the Gospels according to St. Matthew 26:26-28, St. Mark 14:22-24, St. Luke 22:19-20, and in St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 11:23-25.

153. What does our Lord here teach?
    I. The Sacramental Use – "Take, eat," "Drink ye all of it."
    II. The Sacramental Presence – "This is My body," "This cup is the New Testament in My blood."
    III. The Sacramental Benefit – "Which is given for you," "Which is shed for you and for many."
    IV. The Sacramental Institution – "This do in remembrance of Me," "This do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me."
154. What may be said of the Sacramental Use?
Our Lord's words "Take, eat" and "Drink of it" plainly teach that the Sacrament is not complete until used as He directed. As Luther in the Small Catechism says, "The bodily eating and drinking are among the chief things in the Sacrament."

155. What may be said of the Sacramental Presence?
When our Lord said "This is My body" and "This is My blood," He declared unmistakably that when His people eat and drink the sacramental bread and wine, He gives them His true body and blood.

156. What may be said of the Sacramental Benefit?
The words "Given for you" and "Shed for you for the remission of sins" teach:
    - That Christ takes our place. He suffered death in our stead.
    - That we take His place. We are counted righteous for His sake.
    - This is the taking away or "remission of sins" – the sacramental benefit which belongs to every communicant who believes Christ's words.
157. What may be said of the Sacramental Institution?
When Jesus said "This do in remembrance of Me," He commanded His people to follow His example by observing the Sacrament, that is, by taking bread and wine, asking a blessing, giving and eating, and thus showing His death till He come.

158. What does St. Paul say about the Sacramental Fellowship?
He teaches that by our communion with the one Lord in this Sacrament we are also brought into the closest fellowship with one another. "For," says he, "we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." I Cor. 10:17.

This same thought is beautifully brought out in an ancient Christian writing, called the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," belonging to the middle of the second century, as follows: "Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom, for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever."

159. Were not Christ's Words intended only for the first administration?
The words which Christ uttered at the Institution made the Holy Supper a sacrament not only for that time, but they endure, have authority, and operate for all time, i. e., "till He come."

160. Why is the recitation of Christ's Words called the Consecration?
Consecration signifies a setting apart for a holy use. It is by means of Christ's words that the bread and wine on the altar are set apart for a sacred use; and that the eating and drinking of the bread and wine become a holy ordinance – a sacrament.

161. Why do the rubrics direct the Minister to take the Plate and the Cup when he recites the Consecration?
It is done in imitation of the action of our Lord, Who took the bread and the cup and blessed. Also to show the people that this bread and this wine are now being consecrated for this administration of the Sacrament.

The Pax
"The Peace of the Lord be with you alway."

162. What precedes the distribution?
A short benediction called the Pax (Latin for Peace). It is the greeting of our risen Lord to His people who are about to approach the altar to partake of His glorified body. Read John 14:27; 20:19-21.

The Agnus Dei
"O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.
O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace. Amen."

163. What is the Agnus Dei?
It is an ancient morning hymn – a modified form of a part of the Gloria in Excelsis, founded on John 1:29. Since about the year 700 it has been in use in the Communion Office.

The title of the hymn is taken from the opening words of its Latin form, Agnus Dei, that is, Lamb of God.

164. When should it be sung?
It may immediately precede the Distribution, or more properly, it may be used at the beginning of the Distribution.

165. How is this hymn related to the Sacrament?
In the Words of Institution, which Christ spoke after the supper of the Passover lamb, He announces that through His death He becomes the true Paschal Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. As such we thrice confess Him in the Agnus Dei (John 1:29). Read also Exodus 12:21-23; I Cor. 5:7; I Peter 1:19-20.

166. For what benefit do we ask in this hymn?
We pray here to the Lamb of God, Who is about to impart His body and blood, that He would grant us the mercy and peace which He has obtained for us through His death. Read Ephes. 2:13-17.

The Distribution
"Take and eat, this is the Body of Christ, given for thee.
Take and drink, this is the Blood of the New Testament, shed for thy sins.
The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ and His precious Blood strengthen and preserve you in true faith unto everlasting life."

167. Is this part of the Service important?
It is the most important act in the whole Service, because in it takes place the closest communion between Christ and His people. The believer now reaches the loftiest summit of all worship. He is as near heaven as he can be in this life.

168. What takes place in the Distribution?
The body and blood of Christ are given to the communicants with the bread and wine.

169. What is the purpose of the words used at the Distribution?
The minister thereby calls to the mind of each communicant:
    That he is now receiving Christ's body and blood;
    That this body and blood were given for his redemption;
    That the Gospel promise of forgiveness is now applied.
170. How does the Minister dismiss the communicants from the altar?
The Distribution closes as it began, with a benediction. This blessing also ends the Administration.

171. What is the significance of this benediction?
It is an assurance that the blessed Lord, who has just imparted Himself to His people, will strengthen and preserve the faith with which they received the Sacrament, and without which it would become not a blessing but a curse.

172. If it should happen that the bread and wine on the altar be spent before all have communed, what shall be done?
If the consecrated Bread or Wine be spent before all have communed, the Minister shall consecrate more, saying aloud so much of the Words of Institution as pertains to the element to be consecrated.

Part III — The Post Communion

173. What is the third part of the Holy Supper?
The Post Communion, literally, the After Communion, consisting of
    I. The Nunc Dimittis.
    II. The Prayer of Thanksgiving.
    III. The Benediction.
174. What is the general purpose of the Post Communion?
To express our grateful joy for the heavenly food received in the Holy Supper. It is therefore unseemly to leave the House of God, as is frequently done, before offering this Thanksgiving.

The Nunc Dimittis
"LORD, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace: according to Thy word; For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation: which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles: and the glory of Thy people Israel. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen."

175. What is the Nunc Dimittis?
It is a hymn of joyful thanksgiving for the salvation manifested and bestowed in Christ Jesus. It was first used by the aged Simeon when he saw the infant Saviour in the Temple (Luke 2:29-32). It derives its name from the first words of the Latin version.

176. What is the significance of the Nunc Dimittis here?
It is the closing hymn of the Communion and accords with the practice of our Lord (Matt. 26:30). That for which the believer has come into the Sanctuary has been received in all its fullness, and he now feels himself at peace with God and declares his readiness to depart.

The Prayer of Thanksgiving
"O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. And His mercy endureth for ever."

"WE give thanks to Thee, Almighty God, that thou hast refreshed us through this salutary gift; and we beseech Thee, that of Thy mercy Thou wouldst strengthen us through the same, in faith toward Thee, and in fervent love toward one another, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen."

177. How is the Prayer of Thanksgiving introduced?
By the Versicle and Response, taken from the opening verses of Psalms 105, 106, 107, 118 and 136.

178. What is the significance of this Versicle?
It is a bidding to the people to unite in the Prayer of Thanksgiving which follows.

179. What is the purpose of the Prayer of Thanksgiving?
Just as we offer thanks after meat, we here express our gratitude to God for the refreshment we have experienced by partaking of His heavenly food. Read John 6:30-34,47-58.

We then pray, that this food may enable us to have a right faith toward God and an ardent love toward our fellow men.

The Benedicamus
"The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit.
Bless we the Lord. Thanks be to God."

180. Why use the Salutation in this place?
It introduces the Benedicamus, and serves to prepare the hearts of the people for the final blessing.

181. What is the significance of the Benedicamus and Response?
The Service now draws to a close with a strain of praise and thanksgiving for the fullness of God's grace which has been unfolded throughout the worship.

Note. — In the mediaeval church the words "Bless we the Lord" were sometimes used in place of "Go, you are dismissed" as a formula of dismissal. The same formula closed the Matins when not conducted by an ordained Minister, the benediction being omitted. We also find "Bless the Lord" as a doxology at the close of each book in the Psalter. See Psalm 41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48; 150:6.

The Benediction
"The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."

182. What is the Benediction?
It is the final blessing of the people, commanded by God (Num. 6:22-26), and always regarded by the Church as one of the most solemn parts of the Service. Says an ancient writer: "When the Benediction is pronounced, you should incline both head and body, for the blessing which is given you is the dew and rain of heaven."

183. What is the nature of the Benediction?
It is not a mere pious wish, but is the actual impartation of a blessing from God to the believing congregation, as we are assured in Numbers 6:27, "They (the priests) shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them."

Because of the singular pronoun "Thee," it is highly appropriate as the conclusion of the Communion, in which through the Sacrament, the Lord has bestowed His grace upon each believer.

184. Explain more fully the meaning of this solemn blessing.
    The first verse – "The Lord bless thee," etc. – offers God's blessing and watchful protection.

    The second verse – "The Lord make His face shine," etc. – announces the blessed favor and mercy of God. Our sins have invited the displeasure and frowns of our heavenly Father, but through forgiveness in Christ Jesus communion is restored and God now smiles upon us. Read Isaiah 59:2.

    The third verse – "The Lord lift up," etc. – assures us of God's own love. "Lifting up one's countenance or eyes upon another" is an ancient form of speech for "bestowing one's love, for gazing lovingly and feelingly upon another, as a bridegroom upon the bride, or a father upon his son." Having received God's grace in Word and Sacrament, we are now assured of the peace that passeth all understanding.

    This we believingly accept in the final.


    [For remarks on the closing silent prayer see Quest. 114]

Monday, June 28, 2010

A firsthand perspective on sectarian worship

(I’m posting this must-read response by Mr. Douglas Lindee to the question: “If our worship looks like ELCA, the Reformed, or the mega-churches, could that not at least be perceived as tacit agreement with those sects?” This question was offered in a comment posted in response to the blog article Let's call it what it is - "Sectarian Worship" - Part 2.)

In fact, I can tell you from nearly thirty years experience among charismatics in modern Evangelicalism, that this is precisely the case. Among Evangelicals, whether one lands in the Arminian or Calvinistic end of the Reformed spectrum, worship experience has been designated as the prime measure of the Holy Spirit's presence and working. The worshiper's own act of worship, the zeal with which he engages in it and the pleasure he derives from it, are Means through which the Holy Spirit works to strengthen the worshiper's faith, and draw him closer to God. For them, such experiences serve as the basis of a material relationship with a personal, yet invisible, God. Pentecostals (on the Arminian end of the spectrum) view such experiences as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, as evidence that He indwells the worshiper and is with them in power. Among charismatics outside the tradition of Pentecostalism proper (that is, those who are more toward the Calvinistic end of the Reformed spectrum among modern Evangelicals), such experiences are manifestations of the worshiper's sanctification, and, consistent with Calvinistic teaching, serve to assure the worshiper of his status among the Elect. Both among the Arminians and the Calvinists in modern Evangelicalism, the experience of certain specific worship traditions have become necessary in order that the individual be assured of his Justification, and in some cases (especially among Pentecostals) to stand as merit before God and evidence of His consequent blessing. In either case, worship experience is connected to establishing the worshiper's Justification, rather than flowing from it, and specific worship forms are engineered by their pastors and/or worship leaders to manufacture a specific sort of experience that reinforces these false teachings.

What do the Confessions say about this? Of Usages in the Church, they teach that those ought to be observed which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquility and good order... Nevertheless, concerning such things men are admonished that consciences are not to be burdened, as though such observance was necessary to salvation. They are admonished also that human traditions instituted to propitiate God, to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sins, are opposed to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith. (AC XV).

For the heterodox in greater Evangelicalism, "contemporary" worship forms, while not securing Justification in the sense that Roman practices did, serve as prime tools for assuring Justification. That is, apart from the specific experiences derived from such forms, the individual's Justification is ultimately in question.

This is illustrated in the way Evangelicals often use their observations as a basis for judging others. Since specific kinds of worship experience are so tightly connected to the Holy Spirit -- His presence and working -- such experience often determines whether the Holy Spirit is with other professing Christians, functioning as a grounds for measuring the faith and sanctification of fellow Christians: So-and-so is more spiritual than that other person. or He is more evangelical than the other person. Or... worse. That everyone reaches a certain threshold of manifest zeal is vitally important to worship leaders in each congregation -- in order that they themselves have reasonable assurance that they are leading true Christians, and that they produce a basis of providing the same assurance for each individual in the worship assembly. That such experiences only serve to fulfill the expectations of the worship leader is obvious, if one takes the time to spend a few minutes in conversation with them. Invariably, their discussion devolves into some sort of emphatic declaration that individuals who are true Christians must emote in a specific fashion, usually with a form of worship piety directly informed by the Pentecostal experience.

But this is not all. In the same way, such experiences are also used by these Christians to validate the ministries of other congregations. Quite apart from orthodox confession, experience is the basis for determining whether the Holy Spirit endorses a given congregation or ministry, and it is only these congregations to which the conscientious Evangelical will attach himself, and with which he will engage in Fellowship activities. Evidence for this is plain in their speech -- just listen to the local Evangelical radio station (only for as long as you can tolerate it, of course...). The announcer and/or his guests will frequently speak of their recent experiences at such-and-such congregation or ministry, particularly in worship, or in prayer, or point to the feeling that came over them listening to the speaker, as evidence of the Holy Spirit's endorsement of that congregation or ministry: "I spoke as a guest preacher at such-and-such church this weekend, and I was so impressed by the worship. I could tell that the Holy Spirit's blessing is upon this ministry." Pretty much every permutation you can imagine on this Fellowship recipe can be heard any number of times during the week or month on any local Evangelical radio station.

The point is that Evangelicals look primarily to specific worship experiences as fellowship criteria, to specific experiences because of, what we would call, their doctrinal implications (although for them, such experiences bypass scripture teaching and indicate direct spiritual revelation from God). When Lutherans adopt practices that are intended to produce the same experiences sought by Evangelicals, we are telegraphing doctrinal agreement to them. Indeed, we are making overtures of Fellowship to the heterodox by using their own language of spiritual experience.

The fact is, most congenital Lutherans have no direct experience with these sectarian practices, haven't lived the life of an Evangelical who (as he has been taught) seeks spiritual fulfillment in certain experiences, haven't thought the thoughts of these heterodox, haven't prioritized their priorities, and as a result have completely misunderstood the danger of adopting or approving of these practices. I have lived the doctrinally confused and spiritually unsatisfying life of an Evangelical, and so have other Lutherans like me. These sectarian practices are not adiaphora, but insidious destructive forces, working internally to undermine our precious doctrine by reinforcing false teaching through their use, and externally to undermine our Confessional distinction by calling out to the heterodox in their own terms.

Mr. Douglas Lindee

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What is REAL Lutheran Worship anyway?

Now and then in my discussions with those who favor sectarian worship, or even so called "blended services," I hear comments like - ". . . the service had everything that Lutheran worship should . . ." And this, I think, is the main problem with this issue today.

I believe what these folks mean is that a particular worship service definitely seemed to be a Christian worship service, and also with a dose of Lutheran theology thrown in. But is that all a Lutheran worship service should be – worship with some Lutheran theology? No, it's more than that. Allow me to explain.

I would not say that sectarian worship was totally unchristian, anymore than I would say my grandmother's First Christian worship was, or my sister-in-law's Roman service, or my nephew's Pentecostal service. I know they appreciate that. They, on the other hand, would not claim that their services were "Lutheran." And I appreciate that.

To be absolutely clear, let every reader please understand – the issue is NOT – repeat NOT – all about what kind of instruments are used, or the style or tempo of music, or the even the order in which things are done in a worship service. Can we all just put these things aside for the most part? They may have a role at some point. But right now, let's just concentrate on the main issue. And as the Intrepid Lutheran blog has been valiantly trying to point out, this is not about "contemporary" worship. Using contemporary forms is NOT the problem. Using non-Lutheran forms IS the problem.

It all comes down to exactly what "Lutheran" worship is, and also what it isn't. I'm not going to argue whether or not the way Lutherans have worshipped in the past has "turned off" some people, or that some people don't like it or that some feel it's not the most "effective" way of attracting new members, or whatever. That's simply not at all the point. I don't happen to think it's true anyway. But, again, that's not the point.

It's really very simple: If you say you're a confessional, orthodox, historic, evangelical Lutheran, then act like it; preach like it, teach like it, live like it, speak like it, think like it, and yes, worship like it. Be consistent. Be honest. Say what you are, and be what you are, and be what you say you are. This is especially true in our public worship.

Luther could have made huge and gigantic changes in worship – other Reformers of his day certainly did. But the fact is he didn't. His was a "conservative" Reformation, not a "radical" one. It seems that some of our brothers in the ministry must think that Luther made a big mistake in continuing to follow, by in large, the outlines of the (c)atholic worship service.

And why did Luther do this? Because, in the end, even the Reformation wasn't all about worship. It was, and still is, about the way to heaven – salvation by grace alone through faith alone given through the Means of Grace alone; the Gospel in Word and Sacraments.

And as we here at Intrepid Lutheran have said from the beginning, and will continue to emphasize; our concern with other worship forms is not about hanging on to the trappings of the 16th century, it's about preserving and promoting the Means of Grace as the focus of all worship. These Means alone are the only way whereby faith can be created, preserved, and strengthened. And that's what all people need. And that's what confessional Lutherans want people to have, especially in worship!

It also seems some want to "have their cake and eat it too." They want to be conservative Lutherans, and members of a solidly Bible-based church body, but they also want to look, and sound, and have fun, be entertained, and maybe even grow, like a lot of our protestant or "evangelical" neighbors. That's just not honest, plain and simple.

I'm sure there will be a lot of Romans, and Baptists, and Methodists, and charismatics, and Pentecostals, and all kinds of other Christian believers in heaven. I'm also sure that Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell, and even old Bob Schuller have been tools for the Holy Spirit to lead some souls to eternal life. Good for God! But I don't want to BE in one of those churches, or even be affiliated with them. I don't want all the various false teachings they have. And I don't want the sometimes trite and vapid worship they have, not just because I don't like it, but because it does not serve the true needs of my soul.

Truth be told, there are dozens of churches in every city in America where one could get the exact same kind of service that you find at any one of the sectarian-type services taking place in some WELS congregations. So, one more such church isn't going to make much of a difference. But a thoroughly confessional WELS church, promoting the true Means of Grace will make a difference. We need to face up to the reality that some churches in our midst just don't seem to want to be Lutheran anymore - at least not confessional Lutheran. And that's not name-calling. That's just the way it is. Why? Because the kind of worship service they support is not Lutheran.

Back to what makes a Lutheran worship service again: The biggest, most noticeable thing is not the hymns, or the chants, or even the order of service itself. The biggest thing is the focus on the Means of Grace alone to bring people to faith and keep them in the faith. Confessional Lutheran worship is not music, not show, not plays or skits, not lighting, not "talks," and not simply even the Word either in readings and sermon, but the whole package of the Means given to us by Christ – the Word, and Baptism, and Confession & Absolution, and the Lord's Supper. What is so telling about these sectarian or mock-Lutheran services is often the absence of these last three items, at least quite often and much of the time.

- Baptisms are done, but in almost all of the sermon pod casts and such I have listened to, reliving ones' Baptism is seldom, if ever, mentioned.

- Confession and Absolution takes place, usually only once in a while, and in some places not at all. And the "made-specially-for-this-service" confessions and absolutions are much poorer theologically than those used for hundreds of years in the confessional Lutheran church. Quite often the Biblical doctrine of "Original Sin" is either watered down or missing entirely. Now it's true, confessional Lutheran services didn't have public confession/absolution during the years right after the Reformation and throughout the period of orthodoxy, but that was because they retained Private Confession, as Luther himself desired.

- Some of these churches observe Holy Communion, but often infrequently, and when they do, most do it behind closed doors, or out of the view of most who attend the service. Again, it is true that such was the practice in Apostolic times, but I doubt anyone today is going to accuse us of cannibalism (unless we're in a Muslim country)! The Pastors of these "different" churches claim that they can't have open and public communion services because the kind of people they attract "wouldn't understand" things like "Closed Communion." That's just not "Lutheran," again, at least not historically and confessionally Lutheran.

These Pastors and their people must like the way they worship. I'm sure some people get saved through their work. That's fine. God does indeed work in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform! But I wish they wouldn't call it Lutheran worship, because it's just not!

And that's the issue at hand. Does sectarian/mock Lutheran worship really have "everything a Lutheran worship service should have"? Certainly not by historic Lutheran standards. Some, it seems, want to change those standards. Intrepid Lutherans want to preserve them. Aye, and there's the rub!

Pastor Spencer

Friday, June 25, 2010

The first intrepid Lutherans

480 years ago today the first intrepid Lutherans offered their Confession (and their heads) to Emperor Charles V at Augsburg.

Some have quipped that those German princes risked their lives for God’s Word, not for this or that worship practice. Really?

It wasn’t a Bible they plopped down before the Emperor. It was their Confession regarding God’s Word that they recited in Augsburg. It was their Confession of faith that distinguished them from the Roman Catholics and from the sects, who all claimed equally to be following God’s Word, but weren’t. It was their Confession of faith that linked them to the Church catholic, both in doctrine and in practice. It was their Confession of faith to which they signed their names. It was their Confession of faith that made them Lutheran.

It’s a “quia” (“because it is true”) subscription to that same Confession of faith that makes someone Lutheran today. Either one fully accepts it (and the other Lutheran Confessions) and has the right to the name “Lutheran” or one doesn’t and is no Lutheran, or worse, uses the Lutheran name deceitfully. One doesn’t get to pick and choose which articles to believe, teach and confess.

This includes all those articles in which Melanchthon wrote so beautifully about Christ as our righteousness before God and about justification by faith alone in Christ. It includes the articles that speak so clearly about the Means of Grace and the forgiveness of sins. And yes, it also includes Article XXIV which does not state some “culturally influenced, random” decision on the part of the Lutherans to continue to celebrate the Mass, but rather their belief and confession about the Mass which led them to continue to celebrate it.
Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved ... For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught what they need to know of Christ…

The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public worship. For none are admitted except they be first examined. The people are also advised concerning the dignity and use of the Sacrament, how great consolation it brings anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe God, and to expect and ask of Him all that is good. In this connection they are also instructed regarding other and false teachings on the Sacrament. This worship pleases God; such use of the Sacrament nourishes true devotion toward God…

Wherefore the Mass is to be used to this end, that there the Sacrament [Communion] may be administered to them that have need of consolation; as Ambrose says: Because I always sin, I am always bound to take the medicine… Now, forasmuch as the Mass is such a giving of the Sacrament, we hold one communion every holy-day, and, if any desire the Sacrament, also on other days, when it is given to such as ask for it. And this custom is not new in the Church; for the Fathers before Gregory make no mention of any private Mass, but of the common Mass [the Communion] they speak very much…

Forasmuch, therefore, as the Mass with us has the example of the Church, taken from the Scripture and the Fathers, we are confident that it cannot be disapproved, especially since public ceremonies, for the most part like those hither to in use, are retained…

On this Presentation of the Augsburg Confession Day, let us recommit ourselves to confessional Lutheranism – to every article of every creed and confession contained in the Book of Concord, because they are faithful to the Holy Scriptures. Let us all, within the WELS, pray for the courage and conviction to stand up before the world and confess the same faith as the first intrepid Lutherans.

Devotions for Friday, June 24

Every Friday, we have been posting original Scripture devotions on our Devotions page. To alert our readers to this edifying resource, we will post those devotions to the blog, as well.


Contemplations on Luke 13:22-30

Jesus speaks here, simply and clearly, about those who will and those who will not enter eternal life with God. He uses the picture of a house with only one entrance, and a very small one at that! He reminds us that the door to heaven is narrow!

What Jesus taught throughout His entire ministry, wherever He went, was always the same: that there is forgiveness and salvation in Him, and Him alone; that God's love to mankind has been shown in His Son, Jesus Christ, and that by believing in this Son of God anyone can and will be saved. In fact, He was, at the time of this parable, on His way to terrible agony and death in Jerusalem.

As He made His way to the scene of His Most Holy Passion, a man asked Him a strange question. It was strange because it showed concern for how many would be saved rather than the process of salvation. In His answer our Lord warns us that we are in a very personal and intense struggle which requires great vigilance on our part because of the opposition of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Jesus pictures the kingdom of heaven as a house. The entrance to that house is through a very narrow door. The door is standing open, but only for a short time. In fact, it looks impossible for us to get through that door. And indeed it is impossible to do so – by ourselves! There is only one way to make it through that door: faith in Jesus Christ as God, Lord, and Savior! As He once said, "I Am the Gate," and again, "No one comes to the Father but by Me."

And Jesus wants us to know that there will be many people who will have such saving faith. They will come from the four corners of the earth. It's not race, or nationality, or politics, or poverty, or power, or anything else that places anyone into heaven. It's faith in Jesus Christ as the one and only Redeemer of mankind. That's why we preach the Gospel to all people everywhere. And there are many who are still far from the Gospel. They may be on another continent, or they may be just around the corner. By the power and love of God the Good News of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ will reach out to them, and these "last" shall be made "first," just like all other believers. And this is where our own sanctification can be important. Preaching is one thing. Doing is another. We must let our lights shine and our salt season so that others might be drawn to the Word we proclaim. Sanctification is not just for us, and it's not just to please God – though that would be enough. Our sanctification also aids our outreach and the spread of God's kingdom.

Sadly, far too many will not be able to enter through that narrow door. Again, not because they are too sinful, but because they carry the weight of their own righteousness. Those that think they are good enough to get into heaven without Jesus are way too "fat" with their so-called good works to squeeze through the door into heaven. All their efforts will be in vain. Notice how Jesus makes it so emphatic, "I tell you!" In other words, here is the truth – listen up!

Not only is the door to heaven far too small to admit our "works," but the door could be shut altogether without notice, and for good. This door closes for each individual at death and for the whole world on Judgment Day. And once the Judge of heaven and earth has closed the door it is forever shut. It's just that simple, and yes, that terrifying! But only for the unbeliever. And no amount of protesting or arguing will make any difference. Jesus says that at the Last Day many people will say that they knew of Christ, that they had seen Him, heard His message; that they had, in fact, had every opportunity to believe in Him, but yet remained in the ranks of the unbelievers. In like manner, there are those even in the church who can claim to be confirmed, long-time members of a congregation – or at least their names are on some church's membership list somewhere, but in fact their faith is dead. As Jesus puts it, "By their deeds you will know them." Here again, He's talking about REAL sanctification – not deeds without faith, but faith shown by deeds!

Jesus is saying that many who have the blessings of the Word, through their own pride and carelessness often refuse to accept it, indeed reject it, and are lost. We need to warn them; whether they are those who are plainly living in unbelief, or those in our own circles who seem to be losing their way through that narrow door. And we need to warn ourselves. If we ignore or despise the blessings of the Gospel, they could be taken away from us!

Today the door is open. It is open to all the living. Tomorrow it may be closed. Tomorrow it may be too late. Let us follow Christ's instruction today, and through the Means of Grace, given so bountifully to us in Word and Sacraments, make every effort to enter through the narrow door by trusting in Him alone and not in ourselves. Truly, the door to heaven is narrow, but it is wide open to all those who trust in Jesus! Amen.

Pastor Spencer

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Let's call it what it is - "Sectarian Worship" - Part 2

It’s time to talk a little bit about the theology of the sects and how their theological assumptions impact their worship practices. It would take many books to do this thoroughly, but for now, a cursory review will have to do, admittedly oversimplified.

Sectarian worship (a more helpful term than “contemporary worship”) is not confined to any single denomination. Much like Pentecostalism itself, sectarian worship transcends denominational lines, being itself a product of the experience-focused worship that characterizes Pentecostalism.

In an article entitled, “Embracing Your Inner Pentecostal,” Professor Chris Armstrong of Bethel Seminary in Minneapolis writes,
Many non-Pentecostal (and non-charismatic) congregations have become "Pentecostalized" in other ways. Contemporary worship style is an oft-noted influence of Pentecostalism, with congregations of all stripes now singing choruses and praise music, even raising their hands in adoration (Chris Armstrong, "Embracing Your Inner Pentecostal".)

You see, this “style” of worship not only has its roots in Pentecostalism, but it carries Pentecostalism with it, wherever it goes. It appeals to all the sects, because it fits in perfectly with the common theology of the sects: that man is not totally helpless before God, and that man approaches God on the basis of man’s feelings, man’s preferences and man’s works.

Sectarian worship and its theological assumptions

(Most of the following summaries can also be found in another fine essay by Prof. Em. Dan Deutschlander, “Reformed Theology and its Threat.”)

For Pentecostals, you’re not a real Christian if you don’t feel the Spirit and even exhibit outward, supernatural signs of the Spirit. Worship is designed to put people in a “spiritual mood.”

For classic Calvinists (Reformed), reason reigns supreme. Everything has to make sense. If something in worship doesn’t appeal to man’s reason, then get rid of it! It’s an “obstacle” to faith! Then there’s the burden of thinking that Christ didn’t die for all men, but only for some, while some have been predestined to condemnation. Since they can never be sure which group they’re in, worship has to be about proving to themselves that they’re among the elect by their efforts to “live right,” “experience” God and “feel” saved.

Arminianism was born in the Netherlands, nursed in the UK, but bred in America. It is the quintessential American religion. It tends to be centered on the individual, entertainment-oriented, superficial, casual, anti-intellectual, anti-clerical, and anti-authority – just like American culture (and not unlike Lutheran Pietism). For Arminians (mostly Methodists and Baptists), it’s about using the right set of methods to climb the holiness ladder. Arminianism is pragmatic to the core: “Whatever works” to get people fired up for Jesus. “Do church” right, and you’ll see the right results. In Arminian theology, man is not thoroughly corrupted by original sin. It’s still up to man to make his decision for Christ, and he has to really mean it, or it doesn’t count. So worship has to be “upbeat” enough to get people in the right state of mind to choose Christ, and informal enough to allow the individual to relate to God on his own terms. This is exactly what American Revivalism was all about. Creeds and confessions, if used at all, have to be rewritten and “personalized” so they become more meaningful to “me.”

All of these sects are represented in modern American Evangelicalism, united by their common exaltation of man and rejection of the Means of Grace – the Gospel in Word and Sacrament – as the way God has ordained to create and strengthen faith in helpless man, and thus distribute to him all the benefits of Christ. For the sects, Baptism and Holy Communion are definitely not the Means of Grace. Even the Gospel preached isn’t necessarily a Means of Grace, because they (especially the Reformed) teach that the Holy Spirit may be absent from the preaching of the Gospel.

So how does man approach God, as far as the sects are concerned? Through man’s prayers, man’s praise, man’s “worship,” man’s emotional responses, man’s devotion, man’s self-chosen, self-defined faith. God’s Word may well be preached in addition to all this. But God’s Word is only a part of the sectarian worship equation. It’s the upbeat musical style, the casual, “real” atmosphere, and the emotional responses of the people that really “bring God’s presence into the room.”

Lutheran worship and its theological assumptions

According to Lutheran theology, man is thoroughly corrupted by original sin, without true love of God or fear of God or faith in God, by nature. The unbeliever cannot praise God, thank God, worship God, love God, trust in God or appease God. On the contrary, he is hostile to God and cannot understand the things that come from the Spirit of God. He is dead in sin, and his heart a heart of stone, unable to be opened, moved, or attracted to God in any way, by any method, through any musical style.

Only the miraculous power of the Means of Grace, as the Holy Spirit’s tool, is capable of changing a heart of stone into a heart of flesh, of giving life to the dead and faith where there was only unbelief. It’s not the style in which it’s presented, but the power of the Holy Spirit that brings this about. The Means of Grace is not a matter of manmade style or man’s preference, but of the Spirit’s proclamation of God’s favor for Christ’s sake. Faith comes from hearing the message, not from being able to relate to how it was presented.

But even once faith is given and dead souls are raised to spiritual life, Lutheran theology emphasizes man’s constant neediness before God, a lifelong beggarliness that still depends entirely on God’s grace for everything. And the Means of Grace is the same for the believer as for the unbeliever. It remains the only source of comfort and strength for believers. It remains the Holy Spirit’s power for God’s people, unhelped and likewise unhindered by its manner of presentation.

While it’s certainly true that believers can read Scripture in their homes and serve the food of the Means of Grace to themselves, God has ordained the gathering of believers and the office of the Holy Ministry for the purpose of serving his people with the Means of Grace. This is a uniquely Lutheran understanding of worship, that God should serve man, and not the other way around. Or perhaps more accurately, that man serves God best when he simply receives the service of God in faith. This is how our Confessions speak about “worship.”
Thus the worship and divine service of the Gospel is to receive from God gifts; on the contrary, the worship of the Law is to offer and present our gifts to God. We can, however, offer nothing to God unless we have first been reconciled and born again. This passage, too, brings the greatest consolation, as the chief worship of the Gospel is to wish to receive remission of sins, grace, and righteousness. Apology V:189

Faith is the divine service, which receives the benefits offered by God...By faith God wishes to be worshiped in this way, that we receive from Him those things which He promises and offers. Apology IV:49.

Most of a believer’s time during the week is spent living out his or her faith, surrounded by opportunities to interact with unbelievers. But when the Church gathers for worship, the Lutheran Church understands this to be the time for faith primarily to be fed, for God to serve his people with the Living Bread from heaven – Christ in preaching and Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Even the people’s thanksgiving and praise proclaims Christ in Lutheran worship.

This is also why the Lutheran Confessions insist on celebrating the Sacrament every Sunday (and at other times as well). Because God’s people always need to be fed, Christ’s Sacrament should always be available to them, right alongside the preaching of Christ. The Lutheran Mass, or liturgical service, has this as its primary goal, not just saying the name “Christ,” but presenting the whole story of Christ, the entire teaching of Christ, and all the benefits of Christ.


Sectarian worship is incompatible with Lutheran worship because it denies man’s utter neediness before God.

Sectarian worship is incompatible with Lutheran worship because it denies the Means of Grace as that alone through which God communicates and communes with man.

Sectarian worship is incompatible with Lutheran worship because it rejects the very concept that God distributes forgiveness of sins through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.

Sectarian worship is incompatible with Lutheran worship because it does not have as its primary goal to bring Christ to his people in Word and Sacrament.

Sectarian worship is incompatible with Lutheran worship because it starts with the assumption that man is capable of encountering God through his own feelings, praise, prayers and experience.

Sectarian worship is incompatible with Lutheran worship because it is designed, not to teach men about Christ, but to work men up into the right “spiritual” state to be affected by God.

Since these are fundamental principles of sectarian worship that flow from sectarian theology, why do Lutherans think they can somehow “Lutheranize” that which is diametrically opposed to Lutheran theology? And here’s the real question: Why do they think it’s so important to turn to the sects to learn how to worship in the first place?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Explanation of the Common Service — Part 3

by Douglas Lindee

In Part 2 of this series of blog posts, after having introduced the little book, Explanation of the Common Service, and posted its FOREWORD and INTRODUCTION in Part 1, we continued by beginning the Explanation of THE ORDER OF The Service, from the Invocation through the Preparation. With this post we proceed with The Service proper, by posting from the Explanation regarding the first of the two main divisions of The Service: The Office of the Word.

Here are some additional thoughts worth pondering as you read through this Explanation:
    In the INTRODUCTION to this Explanation of the Common Service, posted in Part 1 of this series, the authors draw out the intentions of Zwingli and Calvin as they modified their worship according to the Reformed regulative principle, forbidding all practices that were not commanded in Scripture. They state that, "[Calvin] appeared to think that the spiritual and churchly development of fifteen centuries could be swept away by simply ignoring it."

    As you read this Explanation, notice the dependence our liturgical Lutheran Worship has on Scripture teaching, the way that it thoroughly represents sound doctrine, precisely balances sacramental and sacrificial, and centers on Christ and His Gospel while maintaining a robust catholic continuity with believers of all time. What loss we suffer for not knowing what our worship means! What greater loss we suffer when modern innovators carelessly sweep away twenty centuries of spiritual and churchly practice by simply ignoring it.

    It is interesting to observe the delicate balance of sacramental and sacrificial in the historic Liturgy, as it is described in this Explanation. Is it not a demonstration of the same delicate balance between Law and Gospel for which we Lutherans strive? Indeed, the balance of sacrament and sacrifice in the Divine Service, is the Law & Gospel of liturgical life! What can careless meddling with it accomplish, but to disrupt this balance and lead worshipers into false worship and error? In an article he wrote for Conordia Theological Quarterly, "Religion, Culture, and Our Worship", Dr. Gene E. Veith commented on the scholarship involved in designing liturgical orders, stating that: "Designing a liturgy no light or easy undertaking. It demands the best and most careful work of high culture scholars, theologians, and musicians."
    In an essay entitled "Liturgical Renewal in the Parish," contained in the book Lutheran Worship: History & Practice, Dr. Arthur A. Just similarly states:

      One problem today is that our congregations are generally uninstructed, not only in biblical theology and Lutheran liturgical traditions, but worse, they do not know the Lutheran tradition as a positive unfolding of the New Testament and early post-apostolic church, which in turn comes from the Old Testament as practiced by Jesus himself... Concerned liturgical scholars are well aware of the consequences of lost liturgy and are equally aware of the sad state of biblical knowledge and traditional awareness in our congregations. They recognize that it is disastrous to leave the liturgy in the hands of people who know little of liturgy, theology, or Scripture.

    In constructing home-made orders of service (also known as disposable liturgies), are individual pastors, or laymen, competent enough to produce Christ-centered orders of service that sufficiently balance sacrament and sacrifice, that provide a balanced and thorough Confession of our faith, and that are representative of our confessional unity with those in our immediate fellowship and with the Church of all time and location? I tend to think not.

    In Part 1 of this series, in the INTRODUCTION to Explanation of the Common Service, the authors were very careful to point out the source of corruption in the worship of the Roman Church: sacrament was turned into sacrifice, turning "God doing for us" into "us doing for God," and making Gospel into Law. In this same INTRODUCTION, the authors also emphasize that Protestants outside of Lutheranism maintain a distinctly sacrificial view of worship. Why are we borrowing from them? In fact, they have much to learn from us, not vice versa.

    In a favorable construction, the Church Growth Movement (CGM) in Lutheranism has sprouted from a good thing -- evangelical zeal. Nevertheless, it has succeeded in creating its own imbalance of sacramental and sacrificial in the Divine Service: CGM elevates the sacrificial elements of the Divine Service by holding them up as sacrament. That is, taking their lead from non-Lutheran Protestants, whose theology of worship is distinctly sacrificial, CGM Lutherans have reformulated the sacrificial elements of the Divine Service according to the distinctives of pop-culture, and emphasized them as "sacrament" by pointing out their supposed evanglical utility -- indeed, requiring these reformulations in order for the Church to be evangelically effective -- while eliminating sacramental elements of the Divine Service or otherwise allowing these supercharged sacrificial elements to overshadow them. These changes represent Reformed-Arminian priorities which are incompatible with Lutheran teaching and practice. CGM is corrupting Lutheran Worship by using the Law as a form of Gospel. This is truly "upside-down evangelism," is it not?

    Are we Lutheran laymen well-catechized enough to spot these errors? If not, then we will need to diligently and judiciously seek our own catechesis, not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of our Fellowship as well.

NOTE: Other installments in this series can be found at the following links:IN ADDITION, this entire series was republished as the single blog post,along with the following companion blog posts:

An Explanation of the Common Service (1908)
Board of Publication of the General Council of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America

To the
Young Lutheran who asks
The Meaning of the
Beautiful Liturgy of
His church


ORDER OF The Service OR The Communion: The Service Proper
42. What are the general divisions of the Service?
    I. The Office of the Word
    II. The Holy Supper

The Office of the Word

43. Of what is the Office of the Word composed?
Of three parts, viz:
    I. The Psalmody: Introit to Gloria in Excelsis
    II. The Word: Salutation to Votum
    III. The Offerings: Offertory to The Hymn

Part 1 – The Psalmody

44. With what does the Office of the Word begin?
With the Introit.

The Introit (Christmas)
“Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God: the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
Ps. “O sing unto the Lord a new song: for He hath done marvelous things.”
Glory be to the Father, etc.

45. What is the origin of the Introit?
INTROIT comes from the Latin introitus, meaning beginning or entrance. Its is so called, either because originally it was chanted as the Minister entered the church, or because it is the beginning or entrance of the Service.

It takes its rise from the use of the Psalms with which the Service in the Synagogue began, and in all probability the Service of the Apostolic church also. Read Psalm 100.

46. Of what does the Introit consist?
In consists of the Psalm-verse with its Antiphon and the Gloria Patri.

47. What is the meaning of the word Antiphon?
Antiphon means “voice answering voice,” and refers to the responsive singing of verses, as was common in the ancient Church.

48. What is the office of the Antiphon?
The Antiphon announces, in a brief passage of Scripture, the leading thought of the Day, and brings the Psalm into proper relation with the Day's Service. For example, in the Introit for Christmas, the Antiphon announces the birth of Christ.

The thought of the Day is emphasized by the repetition of the Antiphon after the Gloria Patri, when the Introit is sung.

49. Explain the use of the Psalm-verse in the Introit.
It is a single verse which has survived the ancient custom of singing and entire psalm at the beginning of the Service. In it the Church appropriates and celebrates, in psalmody, the Gospel fact which is proclaimed for that day in the Antiphon.

50. Why does the Introit include the Gloria Patri?
Because most of the Introits are from the Psalms, and the addition of the Gloria Patri fundamentally distinguishes the use of the Psalter in the New Testament Church from its use in the Synagogue. The Messianic reference in the Psalms Jesus declares to have been written concerning Himself (Luke 24:44); and in the confession of the truth, the Christian Church has always concluded the Psalms with this ascription of praise to the Holy Trinity.

Thus the Church perpetuates the confession of the co-eternal Godhead of our Lord and the Holy Ghost, with the Father, which was denied in the controversies of the fourth century.

The Kyrie
“Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.”

51. What is the meaning of the word Kyrie?
It is a Greek word and means, O Lord.

Note: Such titles as Gloria Patri and Gloria in Excelsis from the Latin, and Kyrie from the Greek, are the first words in those languages of the parts of the Service which they name. Psalms and even books, in ancient times, were named by the first word or words.

52. What is the office of the Kyrie?
The congregation, realizing its infirmity from indwelling sin, calls upon God for that grace which has been announced and offered in the Introit.

53. Why is the prayer thrice uttered?
Because the grace for which it asks is from God the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit.

54. By what is this cry for mercy succeeded?
By the Gloria in Excelsis.

This part of the Service strikingly reproduces the order of events related in Luke 18:35-43.
    - There the blind man in his misery cried for mercy. So do we in the Kyrie.
    - He cried persistently. We utter the same prayer three times.
    - His prayer was answered. Our petitions are likewise granted.
    - Then he and “all the people with him” glorified and gave praise unto God. So our Kyrie is followed by Gloria in Excelsis.

The Gloria in Excelsis
“Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will toward men. We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.

“O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sin of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.

“For Thou only art holy; Thou only art the Lord; Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen”

55. What is the Gloria in Excelsis?
It is one of the oldest morning hymns of the Christian Church – a hymn of adoration, celebrating God's glory as manifested in the merciful gift of His Son. It is so called from the first words of the Latin version, meaning literally, “Glory in the Highest.”

56. By whom and when were the opening words sung?
By the Angels at the birth of Christ (Luke 2:14).

57. What does Luther say of this part of the Gloria?
“It did not grow; nor was it made on earth; it came down from heaven.”

58. How may the contents of this hymn be outlined?
    I. Adoration of God the Father,
      (a) In the words of the Angels,
      (b) In a rich outburst of praise and thanksgiving in the words of the Church.
    II. Adoration of God the Son,
      By acknowledging Him as the Lord, the Only-begotten Son, the Christ, God, the Lamb of God.
    III. Petition to God the Son,
      (a) As the One Who procures mercy, by taking away the sin of the world;
      (b) As the One Who dispenses mercy, sitting at the right hand of God, the Father.
    IV. Praise to God the Son,
      In a three-fold ascription of equal holiness, power, and glory with the Father and the Holy Ghost, as the reason for our prayer and praise.

Part II – The Word
59. What is the nature of Part II?
In this part we have, through the administration of the Divine Word, the actual bestowal of the grace which, in the first part, has been announced in the Introit, invoked in the Kyrie, and celebrated in the Gloria in Excelsis.

The Salutation and Response
“The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit.

60. What is the significance of the Salutation at the opening of this part of the Service?
It marks the transition to the second part, and introduces the Collect of the Day. Pastor and people pray for each other, invoking the presence of the Lord Who comes to men through His Word. In the Church of the Middle Ages the Salutation and Response introduced every main part of the Service.

The Collect (Christmas Day)
“Grant, we beseech The, Almighty God, that the new birth of Thine Only-begotten Son in the flesh may set us free who are held in the old bondage under the yoke of sin; through the same, Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.”

61. What is the Collect of the Day?
It is a brief prayer which varies with the festivals and seasons of the Church Year.

62. Why is the Collect so called?
Probably because it is the united or collected prayer of the entire congregation, or because it collects and concentrates the thought of Gospel and Epistle. The term is derived from the Latin Collecta and Collectio.

63. What is the structure of the Collect?
In its full form it has five parts: (a) The invocation. (b) The antecedent reason. (c) The petition. (d) The benefit desired. (e) the doxology. The antecedent reason and the benefit desired are often wanting.

64. Cite examples.
...Ash WednesdayVIII TrinityVII TrinitySunday After Ascension
InvocationAlmighty and Everlasting God,Lord,O God,Almighty, everlasting God:
Antecedent ReasonWho hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Whose never-failing Providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth:
PetitionCreate and make in us new and contrite hearts,Grant to us, we beseech Thee, the Spirit to think and do always such things as are right;We humbly beseech Thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us;Make us to have always a devout will towards Thee, and to serve Thy Majesty with a pure heart;
Benefit Desiredthat we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness;that we, who cannot do anything that is good without Thee, may by Thee be enabled to live according to Thy will;

Doxology through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, etc.through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, etc.through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, etc.

65. By whom should the Collect be said?
The rubric directs the minister to read it; but since it is the prayer of all, the congregation should join the Minister either silently or in a subdued voice. This is indicated by the summons, “Let us pray,” and by the Amen, which the congregation is directed to sing or say at the end of the Collect.

66. What is the office of the Collect of the Day?
It serves to prepare the congregation for the reception of the special Word of the Day, now about the be read. In it pastor and people pray for the particular grace which that Word offers and conveys.

67. When was the entire series of Introits, Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, as retained in the Lutheran Service, completed?
In the reign of Charlemagne (800 A.D.)

68. How long have our Collects been in use?
There are few, if any, that have not been in use for more than twelve hundred years.

69. What is to be said of the wide use of these Collects?
Most of them are now in use in the Lutheran Churches of Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the United States and throughout the world; in the Church of England throughout the British Empire; in the Protestant Episcopal Church in America; and (in the Latin language) in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Epistle (Christmas)
Titus 2:11-14
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

70. Where do we find the petition of the Collect answered?
In the Epistle and the Gospel of the Day, which, with the Sermon, constitute the chief part of the Office of the Word.

71. May other Scripture lessons be read?
Yes. But they should be in harmony with the Gospel of the Day, and, as the rubric directs, they should be read before the Epistle. The Epistle and Gospel should always be read.

72. What is the meaning of the word Epistle?
An epistle is a letter. The first Scripture of the Day is called The Epistle, because it is usually taken from the Letters of the New Testament.

73. What is The Epistle?
The Epistle is the Words which the Holy Spirit addresses to believers through the Apostle, and in which are set forth the faith and life which should characterize them. In the Epistle for Christmas, Paul tells us what the birth of Christ means to us, and describes the manner of life which should follow from our knowledge of this great fact.

The Hallelujah
74. Why is Hallelujah sung in response to the Epistle?
Hallelujah is a Hebrew word meaning “Praise the Lord.” It is the expression of joy with which the people of God have always received from His Word.

Note: Hallelujah occurs frequently in the Book of Psalms from Psalm 104 onwards, and four times in Revelation 19. It was in frequent and general use among early Christians. Plowmen shouted it while at work. Sailors used it as a word of encouragement while plying the oar. Soldiers used it as a battle-cry. When Christians met on Easter morning, “Alleluia, the Lord is risen!” was their salutation. It passed early into frequent liturgical use in all parts of the church, especially in connection with psalms and hymns.

75. What may be used in addition to the Hallelujah at this point of the Service?
As suggested by the rubric, the proper Sentence may be sung with the Hallelujah, or after it a hymn may be sung by the Congregation. Or, after the Hallelujah Sentence, special choir music may be sung; but it must be in harmony with the thought of the Day. Such music, at this place, serves the purpose of a gradual, which anciently was a Psalm sung from the steps (gradus) of the pulpit, or of the altar, as a response to the Epistle. Special music at any other place in the Service should be discountenanced.

76. It the Hallelujah ever omitted?
As the rubric states, the Hallelujah is to be omitted in the Passion Season (Septuagesima to Good Friday).

The Gospel (Christmas)
Luke 2:1-14
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

77. What point of the Service do we now approach?
The summit of the Office of the Word, namely the Gospel of the Day.

78. How is this prominence of the Gospel emphasized?
By the Sentences with which the reading of the Gospel is accompanied, and by the rising of the congregation to hear it.

79. Why does the congregation sing “Glory be to Thee, O Lord” after the Gospel is announced?
In order to express its joy over the prospect of hearing the blessed Word of Christ Himself.

80. What is the Gospel of the Day?
It is the Good Tidings proclaimed by the Holy Spirit through the Evangelist, in which the saving word and work of Christ, commemorated that day, are set forth. As Christmas commemorates the birth of Christ, the Gospel of that day is the account, from St. Luke, of the Nativity.

81. How does the congregation receive the Gospel?
By singing “Praise be to Thee, O Christ” it glorifies and praises Him for the blessed news.

The Creed
    “I Believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible.

    “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only begotten Son of God, Begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made; Who, for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death and was buried; And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father; And He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.

    “And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets. And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; And I look for the Resurrection of the dead; And the life of the world to come. Amen.”

    “I Believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

    “And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into Hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

    “I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy catholic Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body; And the Life everlasting. Amen.”

82. What is a Creed?
A statement of what one believes. The word is derived from the Latin Credo, which means, I Believe.

83. Why have we a Creed in the Service?
Because it is necessary to state publicly our acceptance of the truths of God's Word. The most appropriate place for such a confession of faith is in the principal Service. Matt. 10:32; 16:15-18; Rom. 10:9.

84. Why is a Creed recited at this point in the Service?
In it the congregation owns it acceptance of the Word of God just read, and recalls and confesses in a brief summary the whole faith of the Gospel, a part of which is brought to its attention on that day.

85. How does the congregation confess its faith?
By the use of the Nicene or Apostles' Creed – the most ancient creeds of the Christian Church. The Nicene Creed is preferred because it is a fuller statement of the faith, especially respecting the Person of Christ. For this reason it is required when the Communion is administered.

86. What is the Nicene Creed?
It is that confession of faith or summary of Gospel teaching which was developed in the Eastern Church from the baptismal commission – Matt. 28:19.

Note: The first and second articles of the Nicene Creed were adopted A.D. 325 by and assembly of 318 bishops, at Nicea in Bithynia, Asia. The third article was adopted by the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. The second article was formulated for the express purpose of defining the true doctrine concerning the divinity of Christ, over against the teaching of Arius that Jesus was not the eternal Son of God, co-equal with the Father.

87. What is the Apostles' Creed?
It is that confession of faith or summary of Gospel teaching which was developed more especially in the Western Church.

Note: It took its name from an old tradition that it was composed by the Twelve Apostles, each contributing a sentence. This theory is rejected by all but Roman Catholics. Like other early creeds, the Apostles' Creed grew into its present form from the baptismal commission (Matt. 28:19), until about the year 750 A.D., after which no more changes were made. It has been commonly accepted from the most ancient times. It is call the Baptismal Creed, because it is universally used in the Baptismal Service.

The Sermon

88. Why may a hymn precede the Sermon?
To prepare the hearts of the people for the preaching of the Word.

89. What should be the character of this hymn?
It should be appropriate to the Day, and accord with the Sermon.

90. What is the Sermon?
It is the explanation and application of the Word which has been read.

91. Why should the Sermon harmonize with the Lessons?
The unity of the Service demands it. To introduce any other topic that one suggested by the thought of the Day throws the whole Service into confusion.

The Votum
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep you hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

92. Where in the Scripture is the Votum found?
In St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians, chapter 4, verse 7.

93. What is the Votum.
It is the benediction after the Sermon, assuring the believing worshipers that the peace of God, in Christ Jesus, offered and bestowed in the preached Word, will keep their hearts and minds in true faith unto everlasting life.

The Votum appropriately concludes and sums up Part II of the Office of the Word.

Part III – The Offerings

94. Of what does the third part of the Office of the Word consist?
Of our offerings to God.

95. Why should the Offerings form a part of The Service?
Our faith must show itself in works. The reception of God's richest gift constrains us to give Him what we can.

96. What can we give Him?
Nothing that will atone for our sins. But if we have received through faith the great Atonement which Christ has made by offering Himself for us, we shall have grace to offer ourselves, our substance, and our sacrifices of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. With such offerings God is well pleased.

The Offertory
    I. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise. Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Zion: Build Thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness: with burnt-offering and whole burnt-offering.”

    II. “Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation: and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.”
97. Whence are the Offertories in the Common Service taken?
From the 51st Psalm.

98. What is the purpose of the Offertory?
It is an evidence that the Word, just heard, has been appropriated by us and has become effective in us. In the Offertory we offer ourselves to God that He may cleanse our hearts from sin, deepen our faith, and prepare us for the reception of the Visible Word in the Holy Sacrament.

Offering of Gifts

99. What act of worship follows the singing of the Offertory?
The offering of the fruit of our labors in the money which we give for the support of the Church and her Ministry, for the Poor, for Home and Foreign Missions, for Education, for Orphanages and other forms of Christian benevolence.

General Prayer
"ALMIGHTY and most merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: We give Thee thanks for all Thy goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Thy dear Son, and for the revelation of Thy will and grace; and we beseech Thee so to implant Thy Word in us, that, in good and honest hearts, we may keep it, and bring forth fruit by patient continuance in well doing.

"Most heartily we beseech Thee so to rule and govern Thy Church universal, with all its pastors and ministers, that it may be preserved in the pure doctrine of Thy saving word, whereby faith toward Thee may be strengthened, and charity increased in us toward all mankind.

"Grant also health and prosperity to all that are in authority, especially to the President [and Congress] of the United States, the Governor [and Legislature] of this Commonwealth, and to all our Judges and Magistrates; and endue them with grace to rule after Thy good pleasure, to the maintenance of righteousness, and to the hinderance and punishment of wickedness, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.

"May it please Thee also to turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries, that they may cease their enmity, and be inclined to walk with us in meekness and in peace.

"All who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity, especially those who are in suffering for Thy Name and for Thy truth's sake, comfort, O God, with Thy Holy Spirit, that they may receive and acknowledge their afflictions as the manifestation of Thy fatherly will.

"And although we have deserved Thy righteous wrath and manifold punishments, yet, we entreat Thee, O most merciful Father, remember not the sins of our youth, nor our many transgressions; but out of Thine unspeakable goodness, grace and mercy, defend us from all harm and danger of body and soul. Preserve us from false and pernicious doctrine, from war and bloodshed, from plague and pestilence, from all calamity by fire and water, from hail and tempest, from failure of harvest and from famine, from anguish of heart and despair of Thy mercy, and from an evil death. And in every time of trouble, show Thyself a very present Help, the Saviour of all men, and especially of them that believe.

"Cause also the needful fruits of the earth to prosper, that we may enjoy them in due season. Give success to the Christian training of the young, to all lawful occupations on land and sea, and to all pure arts and useful knowledge; and crown them with Thy blessing."

Here special Supplications, Intercessions, and Prayers may be made.

"These, and whatsoever other things Thou wouldest have us ask of Thee, O God, vouchsafe unto us for the sake of the bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, Thine only Son, our Lord and Saviour, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end."

Then shall the Minister, and the Congregation with him, say
The Lord's Prayer.

100. What announcement may be made before the General Prayer?
The Minister shall make mention of any special petitions, intercessions or thanksgivings which may have been requested. He may also make mention of the death of any member of the congregation. (Rubric.)

101. What is offered in the General Prayer?
The fruit of our lips in thanksgiving and petition.

102. Why is it called the General Prayer?
Because in it we pray for all possible blessings to be bestowed not only upon us, but upon all sorts and conditions of men.

103. How long has this prayer been in use?
It was used in almost its present form in 1553. Its origin may be found in the Apostolic injunction that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men. I Tim. 2:1-2.

104. Outline the contents of the General Prayer.
    - The Address, to God, as our Father in Christ.
    - A General Thanksgiving for all blessings.
    - A Special Thanksgiving for the gift of Christ and of theWord.
    - A Petition that the Word may be fruitful in us.
    - For the Church.
      -- Pastors and People.
      -- Purity of Doctrine.
      -- Strengthening of Faith.
      -- Increase of Love.
    -For the State.
      -- Rulers, Legislators and Judges.
      -- Good Government and Social Order.
    - For Enemies.
      -- Reconciliation.
    - For the Afflicted.
      -- All Sufferers.
      -- Especially those who suffer for Righteousness' sake.
      -- That all may recognize God's Providence in their Afflictions.
    - For the Forgiveness of all Sins, and Preservation against all Evil, Spiritual, Moral, and Bodily.
    - For
      -- The Products of Nature.
      -- Christian Education.
      -- Every proper Occupation.
      -- Pure Arts, and useful Sciences.
    - Special Petitions. (See Question No. 100.)
    - Conclusion.
      -- All the Thanksgivings, Intercessions and Petitions of this Prayer are offered through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
105. May other prayers be used?
If there be no Communion, the Litany, or a selection from the Collects and Prayers may be used (Rubric).

In the Liturgy prepared in 1748, by Muhlenberg and his co-laborers, this rubric appears: "The sermon being concluded, nothing else shall be read than the appointed Church-prayer here following, or the Litany instead of it by way of change; and nothing but necessity shall occasion its omission." This same rubric appears in the printed Liturgy of 1786.

106. Are the prayers of the Common Service preferable to free prayers?
Yes. Because they are not the prayers of the Minister, but of the Church; not of a single congregation, but of the whole Church; and because each person may readily take part in them.

The needs of God's people are ever the same, and the beautiful forms, which the Church has developed in her experience through the ages, give full expression to the believer's wants at all times.

107. Why is the Lord's Prayer used in addition to the General Prayer?
Because no act or service of prayer is complete without it. Christ's direction to His disciples was, "When ye pray, say, Our Father," etc. (Luke 11:2). Luther says, "It is a prayer of prayers, wherein our Lord has comprised all spiritual and bodily need."

108. In the making of announcements, which is allowable at this point, what care should be exercised?
The Minister should avoid making announcements which would suggest thoughts out of harmony with the worship.

The Hymn

109. What is offered next?
The fruit of our lips in a hymn of praise, which properly concludes the Office of the Word.

110. What should be the character of this hymn when the Holy Supper is administered?
It should serve to prepare the hearts of the people for the Service of the Holy Supper, which is now at hand.

111. Should the Holy Supper be omitted?
The Holy Supper should not be omitted. The entire Service is a unit. The omission of the second renders the first part incomplete, since the Holy Supper is the personal application and seal of all that is offered and given in the Office of the Word. The Service without the Holy Supper is like an elaborate feast, during the course of which the guests leave the table before the richest favors are distributed. Very properly is the Service as a whole entitled The Communion.

112. With what should the Service close when the Holy Supper is omitted?
With the Doxology and the Benediction.

113. What is the Doxology?
The term is derived from two Greek words, doxa: glory, and logos: a saying. Every ascription of praise to the Triune God is a doxology. The Gloria in Excelsis and the Gloria Patri are known respectively as the Greater and the Lesser Doxology. Following the ancient practice of concluding the Psalms with the Lesser Doxology, we sing at the end of the closing hymn an ascription of praise to the Trinity in a form of words corresponding with the metre of the hymn.

114. What should be the last act of the worshiper before he leaves the Sanctuary?
He should offer a silent prayer, thanking God for the gift of His grace in this Service, and asking to be kept steadfast in the faith, and to be made fruitful in good works.


O God, I thank Thee for Thy gifts of grace; strengthen me, through the same, in faith and in all good works; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

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